A misinterpetation of South Carolina high school rules has sidelined North Augusta's boys basketball team from tournament and, for now, postseason play.
Keith Arrington, second-year coach of the Yellow Jackets, violated practice rules during the summer by holding a workout with more than three students at the time.
"I take full responsibility for the matter," Arrington said. "It is my job to know the rules, and I didn't. I misunderstood the information I was given after talking to several other coaches about practices."
A substantial fine also was levied against the school. According to Arrington, it "has already been paid for."
Ronnie Matthews, executive director of the South Carolina High School League, confirmed the violation Wednesday.
"There was a violation at North Augusta High School, and we felt the violation was not intentional," Matthews said. "Therefore, the fine and penalty were minimal.
"We had total cooperation from the administration at North Augusta concerning the matter. We had two similar cases earlier this year, and those schools received the same penalty," Matthews said.
Under SCHSL rules, "organized practice is defined as the gathering of a coach(es) and more than three athletes in a given day for the purpose of teaching skills. It also includes the use of school facilities by more than three students."
Arrington's interpretation of the rules was one coach could be with three players and another coach could be with several others.
Once athletics director Joe Long was notified of the error, he called the league and reported the violation.
"He made a bad decision," Long said of Arrington. "Once we found out, myself and principal Kyle Smith investigated the matter and then reported it to the high school league."
Arrington, who has been coaching in South Carolina for only two years, used to coach at Wheeler County in Alamo, Ga.
In Georgia, from the last day of school until Aug. 1, a coach cannot officially represent his school, and any activity must be voluntary.
"Some states do not allow any coach-student interaction over the summer, and that's where we differ on that rule," said Ralph Swearngin, commissioner of offices for the Georgia High School League. "Historically, we have never seen a need to have that rule. During the summer, anything goes, as long as it is voluntary."
North Augusta intended to play in the 100 Black Men Augusta Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 24-25 at Richmond Academy but were informed they could not.
The SCHSL also will not allow the Yellow Jackets to participate in the St. Joseph's-Candler County Christmas Classic on Dec. 27-30 in Savannah.
"It's a shame for the kids because they have to pay the consequences for something that I did," Arrington said. "We worked very hard to get into that tournament, and now we can't play in it."
Arrington also added that the team isn't as concerned about the tournaments as it is about being able to participate in the playoffs.
The Yellow Jackets are not eligible for postseason play, but Long said the school does have the opportunity to appeal.
"We will appeal the decision," Long said. "I believe that every school should run a clean program. We are governed by the high school league, and schools are left to use their own judgment. That's what we did by investigating the matter."
Reach Miguelangelo Hernandez at (706) 823-3304.
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